Let me set the scene for you.
It’s a Friday night and you’re at a beat up, slightly run-down party house. The carpet is cream and stained in so many places it looks as though it might actually transform into some chic pale ale shade from one too many nights of beer pong. There’s the perfect amount of black light to accentuate everything white that you’re wearing, which is just your shoelaces, because no one told you to wear white.
You’re plugging away at your second refill of the red cup and across the room you see two women making out. It makes you feel warm all over, like your body just pissed itself with oxytocin. Two women are making out, and I feel fine.
There exists a certain bubble of safety for women which I’m going to call “the bubble of experimentation.” This bubble is mostly a privilege of normatively attractive women, but that gets a little tricky depending on who/where/what we’re talking about, so lets just stick with women.
If you’re a woman it is reasonable to say that you could kiss another woman and no one would question your sexuality. You may not even question your sexuality. Maybe you kissed a girl because you wanted to. Maybe it was because it was a fun thing to do. Maybe you were genuinely curious about whether or not you are/were bisexual. Maybe you’re gay. There are a lot of maybes. The point is that you can leave that party at the end of the night with your hetero-card intact. People may question “is she, isn’t she?” but the label isn’t really super-sticky. It’s like a name tag you wear out once and it falls off in the laundry. No big deal.
This same bubble of experimentation doesn’t exist for men.
Imagine again, if you will, a party of the same sort. The lights have been dimmed, people are smelling strongly of beer, and off in the corner two men close in on one another and begin to make out.
It is unlikely that anyone who caught a glimpse of this act would view it as “two guys having fun” or “simple experimentation.” There’s no such thing as a party gay. The label is much stickier for men. If they do something that is even slightly homosexual (lets say: remarking on the attractiveness of another man) it can be very difficult to avoid being labeled.
Some people believe that a certain strength of masculinity (or worse yet, homophobia) is a direct reaction to fear of being seen as feminine, or, in this case, homosexual. More simply put: dudes are going to avoid seeming weak, they’re definitely going to avoid seeming gay, because once that label is there, it’s there for good.
It makes sense that men would not have that same bubble to experiment because their sexuality is called into question much more frequently than a woman’s. It is also less acceptable – from a sociocultural perspective – to be a gay dude.
So how might a man experiment with his sexuality if he’s just not sure if he’s bi or not?
I do think that in certain subgroups of men there exist areas where they can privately experiment with one another. There may even be some select parties that you have attended in which two dudes making out would be NBD. On a whole, we view the sexuality of men and women as two extraordinarily different beasts. Until there is a point where masculinity and heterosexuality aren’t tied together on a short leash, men’s sexuality seems to be a choppier sea to navigate.
Do you have experiences with experimenting with your sexuality as a man?